Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 31, 2009

BAUCUS SETS A DEADLINE.... Perhaps Max Baucus started feeling some heat from his colleagues, because he today he did something unusual: he gave Republicans a deadline.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus, has told colleagues he will press ahead with major health care legislation on Sept. 15 even if he does not have a bipartisan deal, Democrats said.

The Montana Democrat has been leading efforts by a bipartisan group of senators -- three Democrats and three Republicans -- to craft a compromise health care bill. But he is under increasing pressure from Democrats and the White House to unveil a draft and begin public committee sessions.

Republicans have urged him not to rush and insisted no deal was possible before the Senate leaves for its summer recess at the end of next week.

At a meeting late Thursday, Mr. Baucus told Democratic Finance committee members of his plan to begin those sessions on Sept. 15th.

Assuming Baucus doesn't walk this back, it's a very encouraging development. As Jonathan Chait noted this afternoon, "[T]he only way those Republicans, except maybe Olympia Snowe, will support a bill is if they think there's a strong chance that Democrats will pass an even more liberal bill without their input. This would give them some incentive to compromise, but zero incentive to compromise quickly. Indeed, they have a strong incentive to drag out the negotiations as long as possible."

They need, in other words, a deadline, which is what Baucus seems to have given them. If Republicans he's negotiating with don't agree to a deal by Sept. 15 -- the week after the Senate returns from recess -- the committee would ostensibly move forward with a Democratic plan. This tells GOP lawmakers that the train is leaving the station, whether they choose to get on or not is up to them.

Or, as Brian Beutler put it, "[I]t's put up or shut up time for Republicans."

Steve Benen 5:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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September 15? Yes, that will give Max enough time to spend the next five weeks at corporate headquarters in Minnetonka, MN to see how his constituents at United Healthcare Group feel about the plan.

Posted by: berttheclock on July 31, 2009 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever. Baucus has been setting deadlines every few weeks since the beginning of the year. Until he has a product, nothing he says is worth squat.

Posted by: PeakVT on July 31, 2009 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats must get more aggressive on this. It's the right thing to do, they have the political numbers to do it, it's popular with the people, it will make conservatives look bad. It would be merely pathetic to dither and delay here. The sun is shining. Make hay.

Posted by: Jon on July 31, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Somebody (too much to hope that it would be Reid) should set a deadline for Baucus to actually join the Democratic party instead of just posing.

Posted by: Greg Worley on July 31, 2009 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

Reporting like this makes me want to puke:

The Montana Democrat has been leading efforts by a bipartisan group of senators -- three Democrats and three Republicans ...

Sorry, but two mushy conservatives, two moderate conservatives, and two uber conservatives does NOT equal "bipartisan."

Bipartisan would mean someone on the left had a say. They don't.

Sure, it's nice to know Max has set a deadline for the GOP to have its say. But given that it's hard to tell where he ends and the GOP begins, I won't hold my breath for a decent bill to come out of that Clown Caucus.

Posted by: Mark D on July 31, 2009 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is not only with Baucus. The problem is with the whole democratic administration. They were unprepared for this struggle. They had not done their homework. If they had, they would have presented a well worked out plan for health care reform, but, instead, we get hundreds of different plans. If the democrats had their act together, we wouldn't be having this drama now. Bad republicans, for sure, but bad democrats are the real killers.

Posted by: lxm on July 31, 2009 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

We'll see. If liberal Finance members go on the record and say Baucus promised a Sept 15 drop-dead date, then maybe it will mean something. But right now, there's a whole lotta plausible deniability on all sides.

Posted by: scarpy on July 31, 2009 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

You are dreaming if you think he'll keep to this deadline. Repukes and corporate donors still rule his world.

Posted by: Go, Sestak on July 31, 2009 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

Whatever crappy plan they come up with won't have any Democratic input because there are no Democrats involved in this charade. We have 3 Republicans and 3 DINO's who represent about 3% of the population writing legislation that has to be approved by their corporate overseers. The American healthcare consumer will get screwed if any of these corporate whores ideas survive to the final vote.

Posted by: FitterDon on July 31, 2009 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

And if you should fail to reach a bipartisan deal by 9/15, I shall be forced to set a deadline of 11/01. And failing that.... blah blah blah.

During the fall presidential campaign, I sent an email to Obama's site telling him to go fornicate himself for caving on telecom immunity. I have been receiving pleas for money from barackobama.com ever since. Just two days ago I received a plea to donate $1 a day until the Dumb-o-crats pass, and Obama signs into law, "real health insurance reform". To help make things easy for me, they will even bill my credit card "for 30 day's worth of donation now and once a month" thereafter.

Give us more money and we promise....
Give us more Dumb-o-crats and we promise....
Please understand the mean MSM isn't playing nice.

I've a better idea. How about I mail you a brick. If you can find them, place your cajoles under the brick. Then take a 10# maul and smash the brick.

Posted by: Chopin on July 31, 2009 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

If Max Baucus was a definitive leader for the Democratic party he would have had plan out weeks ago. Instead he acts like GWBush wielding his power to destroy America's economy and Americans . September 15th? What year? Max Baucus is a failure to his party and works well for the racist spouting republicans. He should be forced to switch parties so he can lose the chairmanship. NOW. Maybe Obama should use recess appointment to change the chairperson of the Senate finance committee.

Posted by: mljohnston on July 31, 2009 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

it better not matter at all what max baucus does with his ridiculous process for a ridiculous 'health care reform' bill.

it won't have anything to do with what is really adopted into law.

for if it does, it is a betrayal of the american people and the whole thing -- obama included -- is a sham and always has been a sham, and these people will have done a terribly despicable thing.

so baucus can play whatever games he wants with his bi-partisan stooges and his whole goddam committee... AND he can kiss my ass.

Posted by: neill on July 31, 2009 at 7:32 PM | PERMALINK

Okay then.

At minimum Baucus could argue they need to see what size product Congress is producing, so they can know what dollar amount to finance. Aside from that there's no other way but to pressure Republicans to deal or step aside.

Posted by: MarkH on July 31, 2009 at 8:05 PM | PERMALINK

I would advise the Senate Democrats to make clear they ready to endure an actual, physical filibuster by the Republicans. Make them go to the floor for a few weeks, and if they do not show diminished appetite by then, pass it by budget reconciliation.

The Admin said months ago that they were will to do both student loans and healthcare by reconciliation.

Posted by: bob h on August 1, 2009 at 6:36 AM | PERMALINK

Sen. Kennedy should ask for a MTP interview this Sunday. (He'd get it.) Then he should get out of bed and jump up and down in a rage, red-faced and shaking, that Baucus and his clackity-claque couldn't see the plight of the American consumer, their own constituents, or the need for timely deliberation.

After three aides restrain him and get him back in bed, he should look at the screen and ask, "What do you think David?"

After the dumbfounded stare he receives, he should add, "Harry, tell Max we need a definitive statement on where his committee stands before you let them go home. This is the least we Democrats can do and what America expects."

That statement and the hourly medical reports would produce some movement.

Posted by: Bob Johnson on August 1, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK



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